Differently-abled cricketer chasing India dream

Shankar Sajjan, a differently-abled spinner, had the opportunity of bowling at the Afghanistan batsmen in the nets.

Shankar Sajjan, 18, is from Bijapur, Karnataka   -  Shayan Acharya

 

Three years ago, Anil Kumble was impressed by the way a young leg-spinner—who is physically challenged with deformed hands—stood out in the trials for Kumble’s spin star camp.

Of the 110 finalists, Shankar Sajjan amazed the Indian spin great with the turn he achieved. And on Tuesday, the same spinner was back at the National Cricket Academy nets, bowling to the Afghanistan batsmen.

WATCH: Differently-abled leggie bowls at Afghan nets

As he bowled to the Afghan batters, most of them were surprised how Sajjan delivered googlies despite his handicapability. Happy with the appreciation, the 18-year-old, who hails from Karnataka’s Bijapur, was just over the moon. “Kumble and Rashid Khan are my heroes. I love both of them,” Shankar told Sportstar after the training session.

He has been a regular to the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium and that’s how one of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) officials asked him to come and bowl to the Afghans. “The Afghanistan players praised my bowling and said that my future is bright,” Shankar said with a smile.

Having lost his mother early, life has not been easy for Shankar. Some six years back, when he approached the local Shahu Cricket Club at the Ambedkar Stadium in Bijapur, the coaches clearly told him that he will only be eligible to play, if he bowled well.

“I was able to perform well and cleared the tests. The coaches accepted me,” Shankar said. But how did he get a chance to appear for Kumble’s spin camp?

“I came across an advertisement and then I emailed them with my CV. They called me back and asked me to come to Bengaluru. That’s how it happened,” the spinner said. After moving to Bengaluru, he had to prove himself all over again. Through his indomitable spirit, Shankar managed a part-time job to make all ends meet and also managed to play for BPCA—a second division club.

But even then, it was tough to run the show. “My uncle, Sharan, helped me a lot. It is because of him that I am here today,” Shankar said, making it clear that his ultimate dream is to play for India. “It is a tough challenge, but if I could come this far, why not give it another shot?” he wondered.

As he walked out of the practice arena, Afghan cricketer Mohammad Nabi patted him on the back and advised him to dream big. It isn’t just a physical deformity that Shankar is fighting, he is also chasing his dream—of donning the blues at some point in time.